Alright, I admit it, I think Trey Parker and Matt Stone's South Park is pretty funny. For example, the Scientology episode, where Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and R. Kelly all get trapped in the closet and Scientology’s Xenu weirdness is literally portrayed with the disclaimer that "this is what Scientologists actually believe" cracks me up. The whole thing with R. Kelly whipping out his gun like he does in that God-awful video series that he calls an "urban opera" just puts me on the floor every time.
So I'm watching yesterday's episode on the Mohammad cartoon controversy and I’m left scratching my head. First, here’s the summary: Fox’s Family Guy is going to feature Mohammad in an episode the same way it features all its jokes, that is, as utterly unrelated to the plot and pretty lame at that (this point is established in great detail). The South Park residents are all thrown into a panic, and eventually the network caves in and censors the Family Guy’s image of Mohammad.
The Family Guy writers strike back, and this time they are going to feature Mohammad in a way that the network can't do anything about.
South Park residents hold a town meeting where they refuse to stand up to the Islamist threat and instead opt to bury their heads in the sand so they can plausibly deny that they had anything to do with blaspheming Mohammad. Cartman, South Park's underage imp argues that the Family Guy’s writers must be stopped on the grounds that no one should die to defend a lousy cartoon, and Kyle, who often represents the voice of South Park's creators, agrees. Both head to LA on their Big Wheels, only Cartman reveals that he wants to stop the Family Guy because he hates it, and Kyle realizes if Cartman wins, all shows could be at risk anytime a pressure group objects to it's content. The show ends on a cliffhanger, promising to resolve its issues in next week's episode.
So here's my gripe: the whole Family Guy subplot plot is lame. Parker and Stone spend so much time ripping on the Family Guy that one forgets that they are juggling hand grenades with the Mohammad cartoon angle. Family Guy's poor attempts at humor isn't the problem here, nor is the Fox TV network. The real problem is why is it that South Park is the only show on TV to tackle the Mohammad cartoon controversy in the first place? Every newspaper in America has become paralyzed over this issue. New York University became paralyzed, Borders bookstore has become paralyzed, and all of America is cowering from its fear of offending the jihadists. Yet it's South Park to the rescue?
So at root, this issue is not akin to ripping on Scientologists because they are nutty. The Mohammad cartoon controversy goes to the soul of America. Are we a nation of freedom, or fear? As funny as I often find Parker and Stone, they are basically two juveniles with a TV show. I seriously doubt they can give the subject its due.
I could be wrong. Part II could be brilliant satire. But if South Park satire is all we have against one of the most pernicious threats to freedom since the fall of Soviet communism, American is going into the battle disarmed.